Apocalypticism and the End of Days

For many moderates, the apocalypticism of fundamentlist Christianity is off-putting. They seem to be obsessed with death and destruction – it has become the driving force of their lives. I suspect it has become a whipping stick, used by those who cannot think of any other way of making their followers obey their religion without question. If they believe that the world is about to end soon, and that they will therefore be judged soon, then this will make people more obedient and compliant.

We, as Followers of the Way, refuse to be goaded into obedience by the threat of the world coming to an end. We prefer to follow God willingly, out of affection, rather than fear, and base our faith not on death and destruction, but on life and the creativity of the human soul, which our very God has placed within us.

Some people seem to need a fear of destruction, oppression and persecution to help them keep their faith; remove these things, and the raison d’etre of their faith disappears. When they perceive everyone to be against them, their faith is strong, but when their foes no longer actively work against them, they are lost. They begin seeing the devil and other imaginary enemies around every corner, and in every misfortune. Life is a struggle, a chore to be endured, and death becomes preferable, a “blessed release” from their woes. They begin to see signs of the end of the world in everything, and in every world event around them.

The sayings of Yeshua` and the passages in the Book of the Visions of Shim`on, which speak about an end to come, refer to a very specific period of time. To any student of that period of Jewish history, and of the political, religious, and social events of the time, it becomes obvious that Yeshua` and Shim`on are referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.

Perhaps for the Jews of the time, that WAS the end of their world – slaughtered or carried off as slaves, removed from their land, and all the things their religon held dear.

Imagine you lived at that time. Imagine you were a prophet called by God. Imagine also that you were given a vision of the fall of Jerusalem and the razing of God’s Temple. What would you do with such foreknoweldge? Would you openly go round telling people: “The Romans are going to destory Jerusalem and the Temple, and carry us off as slaves”? If you did, you’d probably be arrested and killed by the Romans for spreading sedition. So if you want to disseminate your message before you die, what else can you do?

You could couch your warnings in such language that it is not immediately obvious whom you were referring to. This is what Yeshua did. He had to avoid any direct reference to the Romans.

The Romans, it must always be remembered, were a very cruel people. They killed to remind themselves of their power. Their way of life, their sports and their pastimes (like fighting with animals, gladiatorial contests and throwing dissidents to the lions) were all designed to numb the population to blood and death. In this respect, the Roman Empire was run like a slaughterhouse. To be cruel was to be strong. In Rome, brutality was admired – you could not succeed unless you were cruel, and compassion was seen as a weakness.

Everyone knew that when the Romans conquered a people, they would initially install a puppet ruler and let them rule themsleves. However, it was also widely known what would happen if that people subsequently rebelled: the Romans would go in and destroy everything.

In a place called Sarmitsegethusa, in the country now known as Romania, the people decided to rebel against Roman rule. The Romans laid siege to them, and when these people were defeated, the Romans killed every man, woman and child. Not content with that, they killed every farm animal and pet and burned every crop and every forest. Nothing was left alive.

If you were a Jewish prophet, knowing that the Romans habitually did this, and that your holiest city would be obliterated off the face of the earth by them, what would you do? Would you encourage your people to war? Would you support armed insurrection? Knowing what the Romans always did, such actions would be considered foolish. Or would you work towards strengthening the faith, beliefs and religion of your people?

Nowadays, Jews are scattered across the face of the earth. Who knows, one day we may face a comet or a meteorite from space crashing into the earth. Calamity might happen; then again, it might not. Live your life to the full, and you will be blessed. Remember that life is for discovery, learning and growth, not a sentence to be condemned to.